galaaOver 350 guests from all across the Metropolitan Washington area came to support the scholarship program of the Sikh Human Development Foundation. The glittery gala, featuring pop singer Jaz Dhami, raised over $210,000 for underprivileged children in Punjab to pursue higher education. Gajinder Singh Ahuja, Chairman of SHDF, while welcoming the audience, invited all to donate by saying, “We need your help. They need your help.”

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Chief Guest at the dinner event, Dr. Gurcharan Singh Kanwal of Virginia, created enthusiasm among the guests with his inspirational speech, and also with his donation of $50,000. He said, “We have been blessed with gifts from our Creator and we ought to share these with those who need it the most. In my humble view, providing help for educating our youth is the best form of service to our community. We are becoming partners with God in this noble cause. That is the only way I see it. Everything that we have belongs to our Giver and there is nothing that will please Him more than our willingness to serve those in need. And, these poor students are in dire need.”

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In recognition of their life-long Sikh spirit of Seva, commitment and contributions towards higher education for the youth, Dr. Kanwal and his wife Kamaljit Kaur were honored with the SHDF Community Higher Education Empowerment Award. Dr. Darshan Singh Saluja and his wife, Meeta Saluja presented the award.

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Satinder Singh Chadha, a well-recognized entrepreneur based in London, was a Guest of Honor. Mr. Chadha appealed to the audience and said, “If we can all extend a helping hand to the youth in Punjab, it will, in turn, change the future of the community for years to come.” Mr. Chadha also responded with a generous gift of donation to the Foundation and also recommended that SHDF should consider providing vocational training to the youth who cannot pursue higher education. Satinder Chadha was honored by Dr. Jogendra Singh and Dr. Kirpal Kaur Bajaj with the SHDF Community Higher Education Empowerment Award. Dr. Ranvir Singh Achreja and his wife Dr. Manjeet Kaur of North Carolina were also honored with the SHDF Community Higher Education Empowerment Award in recognition of their Sikh Spirit of Seva and immense contributions towards providing the Sikh youth with higher education. Dr. Jaswinder Singh Sidhu and his wife Guddi Sidhu presented the award.

Addressing the donors, Gajinder Singh Ahuja, Chairman, SHDF, declared “Poverty is a terrible inheritance. Even a very bright child’s dreams can be defeated before these are born.”  While thanking the audience, he said, “The poor children that you helped a few years ago are now successful professionals working for companies like IBM, Microsoft and Infosys.  They will surely pass on your gift of higher education to their children and the community. He added, “You, our donors, can certainly liberate many more additional children and their families from the clutches of poverty.”

Dr. Manmohan Singh Kumar and Dr. Rajwant Singh led an appeal requesting for donations from the audience, who then opened up their hearts and wallets to write checks for SHDF. Within minutes, funds for 350 scholarships were collected with each scholarship worth $510.00.

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Dr. Manmohan Singh said, “If we help in educating one youth, this in turn changes the entire village and the aggregate effect goes to thousands just with one scholarship. With your support and your generosity, we are helping multiple families and aiming at a change in the entire generation.”

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Dr. Rajwant Singh citing the examples of many children of very poor farmers who have gone to the dire circumstances of committing suicide due to financial hardships, said, “If we don’t hold the hands of these bright young men and women, then who will?  We are lighting the candles in their lives and homes. This is one real way of celebrating Diwali. Isn’t this what our Gurus taught us?”

Abinash Singh, a board member of SHDF in charge of IT development, said, “It is exhilarating to see so many people coming year after year to support this program. We are grateful for their confidence in the program and also in the working of the organization. This year’s event is again a grand success.”

Kanwal Singh, who manages the accounts of SHDF, said, “Our program is running smoothly and successfully and the mechanism has been sharpened over the years.  With having a very low overhead, most of the donations go the scholarship recipients and this is the best dollar spent by the donor.”

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Manpreet Singh, board member of SHDF, said, “SHDF has been able to provide scholarships to over 4,000 students and more than 1,500 students have graduated and become professionals. Many of them are supporting their siblings and have also started to donate back to SHDF. This is the real wonderful story and we are happy to share this great achievement with our supporters.”

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After dinner, guests were entertained by Jaz Dhami, who flew especially from England to perform. He enthralled the audience with his emotional songs and made them dance to fast numbers. He also sponsored two scholarships and said, “This, in my view, is a very noble cause and I appeal to all Punjabi entertainers to come forward and join in this movement to uplift Punjabi youth.”

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SHDF’s scholarship is based on need and merit. Students are selected from colleges and universities throughout the State of Punjab and surrounding areas with vigorous screening. This is done by the SHDF India Division based in New Delhi. Their four member staff maintains the records of the recipients and verifies the credentials of the students. Most of the students receiving assistance are from families earning less than a dollar a day per person. This program is executed in partnership with sister organization Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council based in New Delhi.

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A SHDF scholarship recipient, Jasmeet Bhatia attended and spoke at the gala.

At the end, Reena Nagra, a young member of the board, said, “I invite all the young professionals and second generation community members to donate and make SHDF their favorite charity.”

A moment of silence was observed for Dr. Sardar Singh Ahuja, who passed away in the morning of the gala event. Dr. Ahuja was a long-time supporter of SHDF.

This year, Air India, a global airline, was one of the major sponsor of the event. In additino, PSA-CPA, 2C worldwide, SR-Associates, KW-Realty with Reena, Nanak Insurance, Sam Video, MS-CPA, AXXIS, and Tandoori Nights joined hands as local businesses promoting the cause. DJ services were provided by DJ Lucky and Dcs Platinum.

A group of children collected funds for two scholarship by doing a bake sale and Golgapa sale in the local gurdwara. They appealed the community to donate more to the cause.

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A very big  Thank You to the Gala Fundraising Committee.

We thank all our donors and supporters for all that they do!

Pictures by Flora Photo and Video Productions.

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